Since opening up at the beginning of the school year, Lakers Closet at Camdenton Middle School has already helped more than 100 kids. Lakers Closet was started after one staff member asked if the unclaimed lost and found items could be given to students in need. Guidance counselors Becki Long-Ruggles and Pat McWhirter helped spearhead a project that was welcomed with open arms by the rest of the middle school staff. Not long after, Lakers Closet was born. Teacher Heather Sappington took on the project and oversees students three times a week as they help organize the closet.
"It's been going really well. The outpouring from the community providing clothes has just been phenomenal. Having the students work in here on a weekly basis has been a blessing," Sappington said. Not only do the students get to help those in need, but they are learning important life lessons along the way. "I think it's just being a blessing to others is something the kids can take a way from that and realizing that people might be less fortunate and to give back and help the kids that they are in classes with. It's something that they really do benefit from," she said.
Eighth grader Blair Kurtz has been involved with Lakers Closet since the beginning. She along with other middle school students give up part of their first hour class three times a week to do something for others. "A lot of times, clothes are donated so there is folding to do. We have to sort them by size and hang them up on certain racks," she said.
For Kurtz, it is important to give back. "There are so many things in my life that people do for me. My parents are always helping me out with things. So, why not help other people who need it and don't have people that help them?" she said.
When asking the students involved why they do what they do, a common thread arose. "It's a really nice thing to do to help kids. It makes you feel really good about yourself knowing that you are helping kids," seventh grade student Nolan Moriearty said.
Many times the students who work in the closet do not get to see students that benefit from their work. When the students see that the racks are empty compared to the week before, they know they are helping others.
One student who has received clothing from the Lakers Closet spoke of the impact it has had on her life. "I was in need of clothes and when I went in there, it just helped me. I got a lot of neat things," she said while wearing a sweater and shoes that she found in the Lakers Closet.
Even though this student does not have a lot of her own, she did donate some clothes that she has outgrown and has had the unique opportunity of being on both sides of this type of giving. "I saw someone wearing the things I gave and I asked them if they liked what they got and they said, 'yes.' I told them that I donated that and I got a big hug from them. It felt good. I was happy about that," she said.
Page 2 of 2 - Without the Lakers Closet, this student and many like her would not easily get the clothes and resources they need. "I think a lot people would be in need of clothes and they would not be able to get them because not everyone has enough money. They don't have just clothes in there. They have shoes, clothes and accessories that people need," she said. "It makes me feel really happy that I know they are there to help people that need it. I know that I can turn to someone and they will help me. It means that we have help and we know that there are people there to help us. It's good energy for the school."
Although Lakers Closet is up and running, there are still ways to help. This cause is not only benefiting those who receive clothes, shoes or toiletry items from the closet but is having an impact on the volunteers, staff and community. "It is something that is close to my heart. It has grown so much in the last six months or so. It is just incredible with the outpouring of the community and having the people care this much about the kids. Thats really what it is about, caring about the kids, those that are less fortunate and being a blessing to others," Sappington said.
Right now the closet is focusing on winter clothes such as coats, hats, gloves, scarves and winter boots. Other items such as racks or organization items for the room are needed. Any clothing item for middle school children are always welcome. A washer and dryer to be used strictly for the Lakers Closet is also a need. Currently, teachers have been pitching in and taking the clothes home to wash before having them available in the closet. To get involved, contact the guidance center at Camdenton Middle School.